Thursday, October 26, 2006

Holy Basil: The Update

I started the Holy Basil almost a month ago; I first mentioned it in my Old Gray Mare post.

I am currently using the SC Holy Basil by New Chapter. They offer two types:

1. SC Holy Basil™

Uplift, Calm, and Balance
Available in 60 and 120 hexane-free softgel capsules

* Supports normal cortisol, blood sugar, and insulin
metabolism already in normal ranges*
* Elevates spirit*
* Protects healthy cells from radiation damage*


2. Holy Basil

Ocimum Sanctum
Available in 90 Vcap® (400 mg) size

* Reduces stress and cortisol*
* Promotes a healthy inflammation response*
* Increases physical and emotional endurance*

(I actually love the New Chapter products. The Host Defense and Every Woman's One Daily is good stuff, man.)

I didn't make an informed choice between the two. I got the one my health food store has, which was the SC version. I believe I still get points 2 and 3 that the regular Holy Basil has with the SC version.

So here I am taking Holy Basil, waiting for the enlightenment and positive benefits.

I was patient.

And I waited.

I told myself, give it time. Wait and see.

I'm not good at patience. I want immediate gratification.

But I went deep and found a small reserve, so I waited.

Last week I allowed myself back on the scale. SEVEN POUNDS!

After two years of nothing, I lost seven pounds! I know, I know, drop in the bucket. But it's a loss and it has motivated me. Only one pound this week, so far, but I've been a teensy naughty. It was all the parties last weekend and the getting Boo'd and so forth. But going down one pound instead of gaining is GREAT!

I am still doing the same diet (weight watchers) and same exercise (any kind I can any time I can) and have changed nothing else. I have merely added in the Holy Basil.

And here is what I have observed in the last month:

* Increased energy and improved mood. I feel "back to myself." I'm back to caring about my usual things and being more me. And my house is in better order.

* Improved focus.

* Weight loss.

* Feel more able, better cognitive reframing.

* No colon flares. I've cut the GI meds way back. One Pepcid a day, sometimes, rather than two every day. I only take one digestive enzyme a day, have also stopped the IBS medication. (The Pepcid is to control allergy inflammation as well as to help with GI response.)

I think this is more or less what the cool Zen words mean, just in more Western scientific terms.

Okay. Sign me up. I'm a believer.

That Sherri-Stringfield-look-alike is not nutters. I think cortisol REALLY affects weight loss.

Just getting me up to this better place has helped me get a better ball rolling and keep it rolling.

Holy Basil. Holy Cow.

By Julie Pippert
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© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006


So Bitacle has scraped every last one of my entries for oh...about the last few months.

Hey Bitacle SUCKS!

I won't say that name one more time since I don't want to garner any more press for that bastard organization.

So from now on the web site that shall not be named shall instead be called that bastard organization aka BO, which fits since they STINK!

I've found a few of my pieces of art lifted off my site without permission, but with credit...and since people were saying nice things and linking back to me, I overlooked the slight swipy nature of it and instead felt all warm and fuzzy and even have been known to send a little thank you note. That's how desperate I am for attention: I thank people who notice me and am slavishly grateful (at least in my head).

It's easy to be like this since hmm about ten people read this blog. On the upside only two of them are related to me so there are at least 8 other people in the world (and yes world since now and again someone from Japan and someone else from Lithuania pop by).

Which reminds me I owe Bub and Pie a BIG THANKS! for linking to my Whirling Dervish post and leaving comments. Know my ongoing gratitude lies in the permalink I have for your wonderful blog and the comments I leave there regularly.



So I find myself not leaving a comment if there are already plenty of them (like over 10) unless I am mightily compelled by the topic or not commenting if I'm just blog surfing (in reader mode, not talker mode). I wonder what makes other people comment or not.

I admit I have been looking for comments, and have gone back to reviewing Sitemeter. The resurgence in my interst in Sitemeter was motivated by BO's nefarious act of swiping.

The really stinky thing is...not only have I been swiped but it hasn't even generated any increase of interest in my blog.

At least they owe me some traffic, don't ya think?

Eh. I'm off to eat my Autumn Harvest cereal and to dream of weather cooler than 78-humid-degrees-that-feels-like-an-uncomfortable-85.

My kids and I, this past weekend, used a big roll of butcher paper to cover part of one wall. We drew a large tree and have been slowly adding in gold, crimson, brown, and other fall colored leaves. I look at that every day and pretend it's the window with a view, instead of the real window that displays year round greeness and palm trees.

Just another day in paradise!

By Julie Pippert
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Monday, October 23, 2006

Working all the live long day

My husband has been working twelve hour days, seven day weeks. He's had some big projects, with important deadlines. His employer is fortunate in him because he'll work the hours he must in order to meet deadlines, and produce quality work. His family is fortunate that he is a good worker who provides for us.

Somehow, though, each of us in the family feels unfortunate because we miss him. He misses us.

He feels compelled to work these hours---as do many American workers---because they are not just expected, but are required.

But these employees, the ones I know...they aren't terribly happy. The delight in their work is diffused by:

* guilt --- not putting enough of themselves into the rest of their life
* resentment --- not able to put enough of themselves into the rest of their lives
* stress and fatigue --- unbalanced life, too much pressure, too much work, not enough downtime, or true downtime (time without worrying about the work not getting done)

So how is this a good situation for employer or employee?

It isn't.

Then, what is it? It is a mistaken assumption about what constitutes a good, driven worker who produces well for the company...and how much the company needs to retain a well-balanced and happy employee. It is also a mistaken assumption about what makes an employee happy.

I know employees aren't disposable. I know how expensive it is to recruit professional employees, train them, get them up to speed. Therefore employers can't possibly view employees as disposable.

Still, that attitude is implied in the workplace. Workers are expected to prioritize work first, and devote the highest percentage of their time to the business. Everything else must compromise to the needs of capitalism and industry.

This doesn't generate happy employees, nor does it improve the retention rate.

In 2004, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average US employee turnover rate had increased from 19.2% to 20.2%. That might not be significant if you simply look at the number, but it is when you consider that's practically 25 out of a 100 people leaving a company each year. And that's the average, which means some industries are higher.

Work and life balance continues to resonate as a commercial buzzword. Unfortunately, that's all it seems to be: a trendy phrase that employers feel obligated to say, but not do. Nobscot Corporation, which specializes in retention management and metrics, stated that work-life balances benefits both the employee and employer:

Many companies have implemented support programs such as flextime, childcare and personal care services. Often these programs are discontinued due to under utilization or lack of support from senior management.

Job performance and commitment is still measured in the minds of both employees and employers based on the long-work-hours culture.

In order for work life initiatives to be successful, the company leaders must set the tone and vision. Managers need to model good balanced behavior. Employees need to take responsibility for their choices regarding diet, exercise, sleep and career development.

Notice how important company leaders are to the success of any program. Consider how infrequently they actually support the program, in act, and not just word (although even that can be hard to come by). And ponder how frequently---such as in Nobscot's example---programs designed to improve morale and productivity by supporting an employee's outside obligations are abandoned because senior management gets tired of pretending to enjoy and support the Happy Dance.

The bottom line point in that is this concept: Job performance and commitment is still measured in the minds of both employees and employers based on the long-work-hours culture.

This means leaving at the door any and all outside obligations and nose to the grindstone for an unhealthy number of hours. It's one thing to focus on your job; it's another---and this is where it stops being healthy---to pretend they don't exist, especially to your boss. Who, it seems, rarely understands the pressing needs, and divided loyalties, all employees have.

Time and again, employers have asked my husband why he needs to be around to help his wife and children. The time I gave birth...they were stunned he wanted more than two days off. The time I was hospitalized with pneumonia, with a three year old and newborn...they were incredulous he needed to be home to help with the kids, and care for me (and in fact, he got little to no time off).

A boss even asked him once, as he left to do something with the kids, "Don't you have a wife for that?" My husband thought he was only half joking.

It’s not a joke. It’s all too real.

Because that sort of attitude and question isn’t even the worst. The worst---and the motivator behind why my husband works as he does---is the time he got fired for being married with a child.

My husband worked for this one company for far too long in my opinion. His bosses there had a cultish view of employment.

At one company picnic, two of the partners of that firm cornered me in the open office.

"You're ruining your husband's career," one partner said, "By putting so much pressure on him to come home, spend time with you, and the family."

"Your husband's job is crucial," the other partner told me, "And he hasn't got time for things like doctor's appointments, all those family issues. Those simply aren't priorities."

"I work too," I said, "We're 50/50 partners in our family," I explained.

"That doesn't fly," the first asserted, "We can't spare him for those trivial issues. His career might...suffer."

The second came forward with the threat, the real threat, “Your job is to support him in his work. Too much demand from you, from the family…it might lead to us re-evaluating his place here."

I've just enough bluster in me to say, "This is a completely inappropriate conversation. I think it's time for us to go."

How very John Grisham.

How very real and true. Art does, in fact, imitate life.

I refused all contact with his employers after that and spent time every single day persuading my husband to look for a new job.

It wasn't until I got pregnant, and they had to make cutbacks due to a huge loss of business after 9-11, that he got a new job. Because he was one of the cutbacks.

They fired the married men with children.

And kept the single ones.


Single men cost less, they said, and work more.

Should employers be able to hire or fire based on an employee's family status? Or should an employer be expected to shoulder the burden of family workers having more obligations at home? Should single people work more simply because they haven't got family obligations?

More importantly, is any of the above true, or is it all simply an assumptive stereotype?

One research study asserts that this is an incorrect assumption.

The first part is true: married men do earn more.

However, this is because, according to research, they are more likely to be in a higher paying job grade, and are more likely to receive better performance reviews and thus receive more promotions.

(Source: Korenman, Sanders, and Newmark, David; Does Marriage Really Make Men More Productive?; Journal of Human Resources, Vol. 26, No. 2 (Spring, 1991), pp. 282-307.)

This isn't unique to the United States. In fact, marital status of married and higher paying job grade is a relationship that exists in all of the major developed countries. The marital effect is a true positive factor for employers and employees:

This effect is central to this study, which contributes to the understanding of this statistical association in two ways. First, it shows that the relationship exists in almost all of the fourteen developed countries examined and across several different time periods. Controlling for age, and, when available, education, race/ethnicity, hours worked, and location, marriage differences in annual earnings in favor of currently married males range from 0% to 30%. Second, it finds that there are important differences between those who are separated, divorced, widowed, and never married.

(Source: Springer, Berlin, and Heidelberg; Marital status and earnings in developed countries; Journal of Population Economics; Business and Economics Issue Volume 8, Number 4 / November, 1995, pages 351-359; Online Date Tuesday, November 16, 2004.)

Anthropologically speaking, the older a man gets the more likely he is to be married, and the more likely he is to have children.

I assert that most men feel a huge sense of responsibility to be wage-earners and providers for their families, and thus married men feel a tremendous loyalty and obligation---and a higher fear factor---towards maintaining a livelihood.

Additionally, married men are more likely to be healthy, and live longer. Dr. Linda J. Waite, a professor of sociology, presented the findings of her study in 1998:

Marriage changes people's behavior in ways that make them better off. Married partners monitor each other's health, for example. They also drink less alcohol and use less marijuana and cocaine.

From detailed reports on 50,000 men and women followed from their senior year in high school to the age of 32 by University of Michigan researchers, Dr. Waite discerned a steep increase in "bad behaviors" among those who stayed single, but a "precipitous drop" in bad behaviors like the use of alcohol or illegal drugs among those who married.

Drawing heavily on a study of 13,000 adults assessed in 1987 and 1988 and again in 1992 and 1993, Dr. Waite demonstrated the positive impact that marriage has on mental health. The study, conducted by two psychologists at the University of Wisconsin, Nadine F. Marks and James D. Lambert, will be published in November in The Journal of Family Issues.

Committed gay couples are likely to enjoy many of the same benefits, Dr. Waite said, as long as they promise to stay together and receive social support from others for staying together.

All told, marriage seems to be "an unmitigated good" for men, Dr. Waite added.

Therefore, I think companies get their moneys worth out of married men. In my opinion, companies ought to foster a balanced life, and support marriage and family.

However, in some professions and experience, all too often, this isn't the case.

I've had bosses look at two equal candidates and overtly select the single one, assuming this was going to be the better long-term employee. And then there is my husband's experience.

I think, simply put, that married men's outside obligations are less transparent than single peoples' obligations and responsibilities. Therefore, as the more open and obvious, they are more a known factor. It is harder to assume the outside obligations a single person will have. But to assume they won't have any or will have less is an error.

In fact, once again, I think it is a matter of perception and bias. Married workers' outside obligations are more understood and more likely to be accepted than a single person's outside obligations. Imagine the case of a married worker saying, "My child is sick," versus a single person saying, "My dog is sick." In which case is an employer more likely to understand and grant time off?

It's hard enough to ask for, and get, time off for a sick family member. Imagine asking for something more allegedly frivolous. I wonder how many times married/parent workers plead family need while single workers skate under the radar with different reasons, all the while both are taking care of personal business (which a married/parent worker might very well have more of, since there are more people he/she is responsible for). Nevertheless, both married/parent and single workers have lives and obligations outside of the office. I simply believe one is more obvious, less transparent. Regardless, there is almost a cardinal rule against mentioning personal need in today's business world.

I have heard many, many employees indicate reluctance to share any personal need with an employer. I understand anecdote isn't data, however, look at the assumptions employers operate under when hiring and firing employees: single people will work more and harder.

Look at my husband, though: burning the midnight oil, going into the office at 5 a.m., working long days, and all days of the week.

Where's that assumption now?

The caveat, of course, to all of this is that unhappy, unbalanced and overstressed people aren’t going to succeed, or achieve their personal best, at work or at home.

In the end, the company can opt to view employees as disposable, and work them until they burn out of the job there, or they can realize the long-term and higher end results of supporting a balanced outside life for both married and single workers.

By Julie Pippert
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Friday, October 20, 2006

Pretty little death machine

Patience is four years old. She's a scientist with a neverending curiosity about how things work (a favorite program), how stuff is made (another favorite program) and is never afraid to get dirty in a quest to learn something (Dirty Jobs, another favorite).

But what really wows me is her attempts to grasp complex concepts that many adults struggle with, and bring them down to earth in concrete terms. This by no means removes the mystery.

Lately she has been struggling with God and Death.

Who doesn't?

Which world-class philosopher hasn't endeavored to explore the divine, and reason?

And here is my four year old, struggling with it too.

Her brain capacity to explore concepts exceeds her mental maturity and her vocabulary, which is huge by any stretch, but still inadequate to explain how this all unfolds to her.

Her brain is active, very active, even at night. She builds neural pathways in light and dark, no matter. Sometimes, at night she walks and talks in her sleep, and occasionally has night terrors. During the day she can be short-tempered, withdrawn and cranky. I know she is working something out.

And so she has been for the last week.

I've had a clue that she has been concerned about death. I think it is even age-appropriate, to suddenly at this age realize your parents are mortal and you might lose them. Patience misses nothing, and works through anything she sees or hears. Someone lost a parent, and Patience caught that concept, applied it as a theoretical possibility to herself, and foundered on the terror of being without Mommy, Daddy or both. The presented a Problem, which is like a bat signal for scientists.

So she began thinking through how to allay her anxiety about it. And she found something. (I want you to understand that Patience has been educated in Roman Catholicism so her views stem from this.)

When she is working through something, as I said, I can usually tell. Therefore, I try to work through it, support her, as best I can. We talk. Imagine. Play it out (her second favorite). By and far, however, she best likes to draw it out.

And the above drawing is her engineering schematic (as most things are with my little three-dimensional thinker) of God, Death and Everlasting Life through salvation.

I'm not making this up. Trust me. I couldn't. I'm not this clever.

This is Patience's explanation of her drawing:

Start at the bottom. This, Patience told me, is people when they die. (I want you to note that prone positions, with hands folded on chests. Where she picked up this, I do not know.) Nevertheless, the red people on the bottom are deceased.

Move counterclockwise.

The vague red drawings are the "pieces of people that go to Heaven." I believe she means the soul. Note they are still red to indicate the association with the person who passed away.

The blue portion is the entrance to Heaven, wher you enter the Gold Light.

Here, she told me, you are made new. New life, she explained.

The criss-crossed gold circle on the top right is God, she explained.

God brings you the Light and Life. He powers the machine, she explained. That's how the machine works. (And understand that this is a machine. The cycle, as per my little engineering child's mind.)

The final bit is a curious addition.

The blue is a conveyor belt moving the people God has infused with new life back to earth.

All the dead people go to heaven, she explained, summarizing, and God is going to bring them back to life, and then he sends them back to earth on the conveyor belt, alive.

I am amazed. Unutterably amazed.

By Julie Pippert
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© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Guilty guilt

I was sitting here getting vertigo from my mind spinning and I wondered, do other people do this?

Do you constantly sit there and think about what you need to do, should do, must do, can't do, will do, and want to do?

Always always always <----I do this.

In any given moment there is:

What I am doing

What I should be doing.

What I actually want to be doing.

And my husband---my darling "we're in our fourteenth year of marriage" wonderful husband---adds to it with non-helpful comments like, "Have you taken care of the such-and-so yet?" or "We really need to get around to doing this and that."

Take this morning.

On Friday we received notice that some library books I'd checked out for Patience were due. Inexplicably she's all into the Sabrina, The Teenage Witch chapter books. She checked out three of those, and I added in a couple of Trixie Beldens and Beverly Clearys to I don't know offset the influence of I don't know what but something that makes me feel vaguely uncomfortable.

The point is, we returned what I thought were all of the books. However we received notice from the library that nope, in fact, we did not, several were still out and due back today.

My husband saw this message on Saturday and said to me, "Hey we need to recheck these books."

I said, "I really don't know how to do it over the computer and I'm sort of busy right now, so if you could..."

He says, "Oh, really, it's so easy...I'll show you how later."

Except honestly? I don't want to learn how to do this later. I want him to do it right now, when he notices it needs to be done and knows how to do it and I am otherwise occupied.

Flash to this morning. I am frenetically bouncing between getting me and the kids rady to go this morning, cleaning up the yogurt and applesauce mess Persistence made in the kitchen, gathering and bagging all the trash, tidying up a bit as I go, and otherwise feeling very stressed. And sick. Still. Again.

So imagine the frame of mind in which I heard my husband---sitting in the office chair, checking a traffic and weather web site---say to me, as I passed by the office with five little bags of trash in both hands, "Hey hon, did you recheck those books because they're due today."

He'll read this defensively, I know he will. He'll want to say that he was already running late for work and needed to go, that he wants to help, and already had quite a bit that morning.

And I'll want to be defensive too, saying can you imagine a sinus infection off a cold that is so bad your teeth ache in your mouth like a root canal and that's just the start of it...and the left side of your face is so puffy as to look, well, about as sick as you feel, but you've got work and home and kids and mommies don't get sick days. You'd bear it all with grace except since you moved to the Seventh Circle of Hell---which is annually plagued by disasters of Biblical proportions, currently we are Utterly Flooded and Under Water from vicious storms that lasted four days---you feel like this most of the time.

If you take enough meds and the stars align right, you feel okay enough to fake it through most days. Some days you even feel a slight raise of energy and remember, oh yeah, I used to be a perky and peppy and funny and energetic and motivated and get-up and go person. When I lived in Boston, a decent place. A place that didn't kill me.

So all that to explain why---to my husband, who asked, from his and probably other POVs a completely reasonable question that might even have been meant to be helpful---I screeched words that I don't think he even could hear because it was about at the level only dogs could hear.

In short, in case he or you are curious, it was something about using every last fiber of my being to barely manage to do the bare minimum and it just Never. Is. Enough.

This is me, out of balance and drained.

I mean screeching at a level only dogs can hear? Over library books?

My husband looked at me and I could see his thoguhts. He thought one thing: Prozac.

He did one thing: He got the library card and re-checked the books.

If you juggle many things in your life (and who doesn't?) you know it's everything, too much of everything really. The kids are probably in some sort of spurt (the youngest for sure) and extra demanding, my health is on the downturn after a nice upswing, and we've hit the major busy season of loads of friend and family birthdays, special events, and so forth on top of the usual demands.

It's fun, a lot of it, but even fun can be stressful, right, and tiring.

So this time, the photo ought to be of me blurry because that is how I feel and feel like I look just now. Maybe my mouth ought to be open big and wide, and my eyes ought to be rolling in their sockets. (Instead it's a piece I've been working on the last few weeks---red oleanders, ethereal.)

Okay hey that's kind of funny. Maybe in a few hours I can laugh at this.

By Julie Pippert
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© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Ten Things I Hate About You

Josette? Josette of Halushki fame? Josette are you reading? I hope so because I want you to hear ten things I hate about you. And I want all fifteen of my readers to know this too. So they truly, really, madly and deeply understand why once again I am linking to an entry of yours. I want them to understand the depth of emotion here that drives me to tell them that they absolutely must go and read your blog, and see just what it is that I hate about you the very, very most.

10. Your voice. Unlike my girlish and high-pitched squeak, your voice is the soothing and mature warmth of a homemade cup of hot chocolate. Color me lime green jealous. People listen to your voice because it is like warm honey to the ears, and then you slay them with the wise and hilarious words. It's not fair. People hear my voice and check for a DDDD rack and a driver's license that reads Bambi. When they don't find it, they never forgive me the disappointment.

9. Your location. You still live in the Northeast, in your state of origin, allowing you ample fodder for regional mockery and humor. Also the people there do not all appear to carry weapons aka loaded and concealed handguns that they will use on you a la an episode of CSI: Miami after hunting you down using their good friend, the Secret Service Agent. I, of course, am regional humor here. No, nothing at all to mock here.

No freaky gubernatorial candidates (Bell: Vote for me because the rest are freaks, Perry: Vote for me because I am Bush's Whipping Boy, Strayhorn: Vote for me because I just married my childhood sweetheart and have six grand-daughters, and Kinky: Vote for me because I tell it like it is, even if it is bigoted and pointless).

No Presidents doing a bad local accent, the Texas version of Hogan's Heroes German soldiers. Fried ham fried ham cheese and baloney and after the macaroni we'll have fun with...same song, 23rd verse, Texas accent and a whole lot worse!

And definitely nothing culturally worth writing about in a humorous, self-deprecating fashion. Not even the big push for English only in a state that is almost 100% bi-lingual in some way---whether it is Spanish and English or Texan and English.

8. Your four seasons. Fall. No need for elaboration. I know you are inhaling the crisp, dry-leaf scented air, and snuggling under fleece in the evenings while reading my blog. I'm as bitter as a dried apple soaked in vinegar.

7. H&M. Although at first glance this might put people in mind of very cool sex clubs and loads of fun, people who know already know that I speak of a British clothing store Not Available in my Area. It is chock full of reasonably-priced and very hip and flattering Eurotrash and Eurocool style clothing. For adults and kids. The main benefit to this is that when you travel abroad you can more easily pass for Not American, maybe even British, or at least Canadian, which decreases the chance of you getting the (a) on purpose accidentally wrong entree or (b) spat upon while abroad. Even though I have no foreign travel plans, I like to be prepared, just in case, because one never knows when one might need to flee, I mean, fly away. Also, not to give away the goose, I'm quite sure my trip recap could never touch your Disney post.

6. Baby fat. Although I am quite sure you look stunning and are back in the pair of jeans that do flatter your ass---with little sucking in of the abdomen---in the event that there is any little bit of a need/desire for spandex blend clothing or deep inhaling when buttoning up, you have a recent---and gorgeous---excuse. My excuse is applying for Harvard next fall. Which means, of course, that I can't quite call it "Baby Fat" so much as "OMG It's now MY fat, all MINE."

5. Halloween. You had your kid's costumes planned back in January. Actually, your kids planned it for you. How cool is that? I mean, cool is that and add in something negative here because this is supposed to be # 5 thing I hate about you. Anyway, the point here is that their costumes will be a real poke in the eye to the "I hate Harry Potter" suburban mom person who is trying to get it banned. ;) Go Grrls!

4. Your top ten lists. I hope it is as hard for you as it is for me to keep going all the way from 10 to 1. I hope it is as easy for my readers to keep going with this list as it is for yours to read yours. And if you could make any sense of any of that you can see why I must hate you: you make sense of the nonsensical. ;)

3. What a life! Your forty for forty list? What more can I say! Ack! You rock! Ack! You rock! Ack! You rock! (And my favorite bit was Patsy Dahling's photo near the top because then I read the whole thing in her my head.) (Speaking of my head? Ever since you mentioned it---oh-so-briefly, a passing comment really, one that, nevertheless, stuck---Bad Mamma Jamma has been stuck in my head all weekend so you once again see why I must hate you. Even if I do love me some Stevie. And just for interests sake the Song Obsession DJ in my head decided to do a dance-able Stevie retrospect as well. So maybe, actually, I love you. My Cherie Amour.)

2. Exotic cuisine. Halushki! Pierogies! Halupkis! Boilo! And all manner of other interesting dishes!

1. Your writing. On my best day---channeling Dave Barry for current event humor, Oscar Wilde for craziness and points of insight, Ray Romano for monologue humor, Erma Bombeck for domestic humor, Ernest Hemingway for dialogue, and Some Really Famous Social Scientist Whose Name I Can't Recall for wisdom---I couldn't begin to touch how well-written, amusing, entertianing and spot on your posts are. In particular, the biggest must-read is my new favorite, A A Series of Unfortunate Conversations.

Really. I mean...this event had to be Oh-So-Not-Fun for the Dear Halushki Family and yet, in the re-telling Josette made me laugh margarita right up through my inflamed sinuses and I was so amused, it didn't even bother me.

For example:

You know, as soon as someone says, “This is the way we’ve done it and it’s always been successful” I immediately see an asterisk with a note at the bottom of the page that says *except in the case of one family from Pennsylvania who didn’t receive treatment according to protocol and God rest their souls.


Woman: And I’m a well-read hypochondriac with an honorary doctorate from Google University….

AP: Listen. If you were bitten at all, the bite would be small. A bite that size would take longer to incubate. If you start the vaccine today, in fourteen days your immunity level should be sufficient to stop the virus. If you even were exposed. Honestly, you have more risk of dying from a vending machine toppling over on you.

Woman: I’ll never go near a Coke dispenser again.

Just that are cracking up, aren't you?

Therefore you'll completely understand the action I was forced to take regarding this post of Josette's.

I just nominated this post for the new ROFL Award that Mommy Off the Record and IzzyMom recently began:

I’d like to nominate a blogger and her recent post for this award.

It’s Josette of Halushki, detailing her recent trials with a bat in her house. She’s always entertaining and totally readable, and her humor is off the charts funny.

Let me run quickly through your award criteria:

a) laughed out loud? Oh YES!
b) spit out your coffee? Time for a new keyboard level spit out damage.
c) chocked on your twizzlers? It was a waste of a lovely candy but ‘tis true, I did.
d) fell off your chair? Indeed, and have the bruise to prove it.

I think you'll agree.

So you see?

You see why I have to hate Josette?

She is simply too wonderful to like.

(And she knows I am totally kidding. Completely and utterly. About the not liking bit. Not the too wonderful part. Or any of the other parts. The rest is all in fun. I'll stop now. I can stop myself from nervous babbling. I can. Really, anytime I want. In fact, I am way too cool to ever babble nervously. I never even babble. Or say odd things randomly, like I like string or the spinach and rutabagas look good this season. Or try to change the subject because I think I am babbling. I definitely never try a tactic like redirect or distract with links to cool blogs that are funny and that I like for example, OMG you MUST go READ Halushki because it is hilarious.)

By Julie Pippert
Artful Media Group
Museum Quality Digital Art and Photography
Limited Edition Prints
Artful by Nature Fine Art and Photography Galleries

© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Whirling dervish

This is Persistence, my younger.

She moves this fast all the time.

In fact, most of my photos of her look like this, although at least this is the front of her head and not the side or back.

When I look back on this time of her life---and I suspect it is a heady portent---it will all seem like this photo: a huge blur.

I joke that she is cut from the Tasmanian Devil cloth.

I spend most of my time running, or collapsing into a chair, exhausted, trying to defend myself from her incessant onslaught of demands.

One evening I was in the collapsed position and she climbed up on the coffee table and leapt halfway across the room to land THUD on my chest. Her endless quest for height and flight in this case stunned me and left me near shivering in panicked fear and fury.

I want to write about this and make it funny but sometimes it really isn't so much funny as it is simply draining.

After I calmed down, and reassured myself that neither of us had a collapsed lung or internal bleeding, I closed my eyes for a second and prayed to Mother Mary to bring me words of wisdom and to help me let it be. I'm pretty sure God takes prayers in any format, even musical.

Whilst I did this, Persistence----and it is not defiance because she simply isn't fierce about it; it is her brand of "beg forgiveness rather than ask permission" confidence in her charm---climbed on the coffee table again, and this time slipped off, striking her hand slightly on the short way down. She was more offended than hurt, but I could not dredge up any sympathy, only concern.

I found myself saying, "I hope that knocked some sense into you now NO MORE CLIMBING ON THE COFFEE TABLE."

We had no coffee table for the first three years of Patience's life. We altered our environment to accommodate her. We wanted to avoid climbing and bumping injuries. "Don't build a hill to battle on," the confident “how to be the perfect parent” books told us, "Remove objects that are likely to create a conflict until the child is old enough to understand not okay."

The coffee table is a useful object. It's not just for fun.

It has a flip top for toy storage and two drawers for other items like a lap blanket and remote controls.

I'm not removing my coffee table.

The child must learn.

And so every day Persistence and I do battle.

“If you find yourself getting angry or resorting to yelling,” the confident “how to be the perfect parent” books tell me, “Then you need to reassess your tactics and create a new strategy." Okay. Umm okay.

I can redirect. I can set up constructive play with the best of them. I can whip out the “what you can do” lines to do any parenting whiz proud. I can even work and do my best to create the safest environment possible for my child, and carefully supervise her.

She’ll find a workaround. Trust me. She’s smart. Very smart. So I try to teach.

Which way is right? Create a child proof world? Or teach a child how to go safely in a world that isn't childproofed? I'm sure I don't know. I've tried both ways. Both had their pitfalls. (And little note here...this isn't a case in point of fallacy of the excluded middle. Obviously the lines are very, very blurred.)

And Persistence, trust me, wants to definitely go about in the world, without hesitation or reluctance. She is the child you have been warned about. The one who reaches up to touch burners, ignores the FREEZE! command and rushes out doors and into streets, and pokes fingers and objects into electrical outlets (that are thankfully twisted into the closed position). You get her away from one thing and she is off on her next adventure.

She is the child people use euphemisms to describe. Just this week we got the usual "what a busy girl" (read: into everything and nonstop) and "you have your hands full" (read: glad it's you and not me or read a discipline book, lady---depending upon tone) but also got "she's so...agile" (read: climbs everything like a monkey) and "she's so...inquisitive (read: see busy girl above). There is often a pause as people search for...the positive spin on what they observe in my child.

Still...Persistence is the sort of child who is adorable and charming. People say to me, "Oh there is just something so special about her." She's a little sweetie. Her nickname is "Little Mother." Sometimes she pans for the camera if you know what I mean. And you will pay attention. She’ll do a cute little dance, sing a sweet little song, clap, yell “Yea!” while throwing up her little arms, wave delightedly and say hello and goodbye to you, hug you, pat you, and smile smile smile---such a huge sunny smile. You smile back. It’s involuntary. So she gets a lot of positive attention. If she can't get that, she'll take any sort of attention.

At the library yesterday she went on a John Bender.

It's all a big blur but it was something like: Persistence ran, Persistence screamed, Persistence ripped off decorations and signs and kept two steps ahead of me as I tried to fix what she broke and catch her.

I caught her, finally, and she struggled like a wild screeching animal in my arms while I gathered up our books and bags. As I did so, the librarian asked, "Were you on your way out?" with a significant eyebrow raise.

This would make our second Request to Leave a library this year. In the first case, the librarian at the other library suggested we consider "other activities" until Persistence "matured" and was ready for the library.

Of course we were leaving.

Did it look like I was having fun? Enjoying it? Not noticing the problem? Ignoring what was happening?

In my opinion, Persistence was behaving like a not-quite-two year old who was tired. In other words, annoying, but normal.

What makes people be so impatient with children acting like children?

I wish I knew because in my childrens' lives that person is most likely to be me.

Like sitting collapsed in the chair and wishing it could be still and quiet for one minute so I could collect my thoughts. And respond to my older child.

Because if you've noticed, thus far, Patience's name hasn't even entered this entry. Where is she? She's there, alternating between trying to be good and patient, and trying to yell over her busy and noisy younger sister to get her needs attended to as well.

Nothing in life has ever been so hard as dividing my attention between two children and endeavoring to attend to the needs of both. Every minute of every day feels like life in an emergency room triage desk.

It seems like no surprise that fury lingers constantly under the surface, boiling up erratically.

Today, after a series of Unfortunate Events and lots of Great Big Noisy Fusses every time I tried to do anything that wasn't 100% Persistence, just how and when she wanted it, I was worn to a frazzle. Patience gave up trying to get a piece of me and sat forlornly on the couch, twiddling with a stuffed puppy and kitten. We made eye contact and to my chagrin, I think we both wished the exact same thing: a few moments without Persistence. Before my brain even had time to put a feeling into words, Persistence was turning flips on the bar on the little trampoline and I was off once again.

My arms and back were exhausted from hoisting her up and hoisting her off one thing after another and my nerves were frayed. I was using my Through My Teeth Nice Words but Curt Tone Mommy Voice to say things like, "You can jump on it but no swinging or skinning the cat on the trampoline," for the 3000th time.

Patience asked, oh so nicely, "Mommy may I have some water?"

"In a minute," I said.

She asked again.

"I can't just now, I'm working with your sister to get her to stop swinging on the trampoline."

"But I'm thirsty, now," she said.

"Then you need to get it yourself. If you want me to get it, wait one minute," I told her again, as I struggled to pry Persistence off the handle bar, while coaxing with redirection suggestions.

"PLLLEEEEEAAASSSSE Mom, get me water!" she cried.

And I, to my utmost regret and shame, snapped, "Just GO GET IT! You know HOW!"

And she sat down and cried and my heart broke.

I literally hurt with the desire to pause Persistence so I could go to Patience and get her what she really wanted: concrete love from me.

I apologized. I explained. In the end, I know all she heard was, "Persistence is higher on the need chain and she gets it. Not me."

We worked it out. She's okay. Until next time.

At the end of the day it's all a blur---a blur of me whirling after Persistence the dervish---except for these horrible stills of a terrible moment and I can understand how one bad thing cancels out five good ones even though good and love are supposed to be stronger.

In retrospect these are usually times of "Mommy Catch-up Moments" when one or the other kid has had or is in the middle of a develomental leap and I haven't yet adjusted and set up fixes for the New Kid Abilities.

And looking forward, I imagine I'll figure this out and set up the fixes, which will be working just in time for the next leap.

It will work out but I'm pretty sure nobody ever warned me that just when you think you get a plan, the rug gets yanked out from under you again.

This too shall pass.

Yeah and then it's the next thing.

It's just a phase.

Until the next one.

These are the best years, the best of times. It goes in a heartbeat so enjoy it.

Someone film it for me, I haven't got time to notice what's happening. I'm too busy. Too busy living it, trying to keep up with it.

It's the duality in parenting: what you know and think, what you believe is right versus what actually happens.

At least I am definitely in the moment every day.

Tomorrow my husband will drink coffee out of a very large latte mug that has the kids' handprints and designs. Someday I'll look at that mug and will only recall the adorable tiny hands, and will be amazed that my big grown girls were ever that small. Someday I won't recall the struggle to Keep It All Good and Cool as we made that mug. Someday I'll have that clarity of hindsight into these times, and will treasure the good parts, because I do think those will stick.


By Julie Pippert
Artful Media Group
Museum Quality Digital Art and Photography
Limited Edition Prints
Artful by Nature Fine Art and Photography Galleries

© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Old Gray Mare...she ain't what she used to be

The thing about getting older are actually all new again.

You heard me.

When I passed into my 30s some undisclosed number of years ago, I found myself expanding as a person. I still acted the same but I started noticing how I acted, if that makes any sense at all, and I started giving myself, and others, a little more slack.

Now that I am facing my 40s, I feel like I am a teenager once more.

It's true. Honest Abe. (And why Abe, and not George? Isn't George the Honesty Parable one?)

First off, I find myself being completely horrid about the opposite sex, especially Younger Men. I blame hormones, which are finally back in play after so many years of pregnancies and nursing. I also blame the military, which has a nasty habit of recruiting yummy young men and drilling them physically into even yummier specimen. These yummy young men---who happen to be, I know for a fact, not just hot but also braniacs---have a sadistic habit of jogging in very small shorts that let me know just how well-exercised their glutes are. And you bet your bottom dollar I am looking. Ogling. Also bet your bottom dollar that "Doo da doo do da doo," (the Mrs. Robinson theme song) plays through my head during the aforementioned ogling.

Admit it. You do it too. At least you do if you've passed your mid-30s and got your groove back.

I remind myself that hmm, if I had gotten preggers and had a baby at 18...he could almost be my son.

I'm happy to report that dreams that would make Susan Johnson swoon come into play about two weeks prior to the painters---you know what I mean. Ovulation surge dreams. At my age.

And in other happy news, I blush a lot less. In other words, my confidence is up. I have full faith that I will Come Fully Into My Own in my 40s. Slowly but surely, I am becoming okay with me. And finding spaces that are okay with me. As I am. Actually, what I am doing is accepting that I have always been, and will always be ME.

Now for the other side of the coin.

You know there is yin where there is yang.

So let's talk about the downside of aging.

My body has once again become unfamiliar to me.

I am recalling my emerging into a teen years vividly. The confusion, the angst, the changing body: What are these odd bits and why do they do that? Why don't they do this any longer? Why am I thinking and feeling this way?

The changes. Oh yes. The physical changes.

Hair over the upper lip. And in the nostrils. When the hell did that happen?

I was getting the brows waxed into some semblance of order and the aesthetician (yes, better call her that and anticipate a 25% tip when you do---she's the one who will keep you looking like a candidate for runner-up for Ages as Well as Andie McDowell) asks, "Shall I do the lip as well?"

And I'm thinking, babe, I've got the whole Native American thing going on...we don't have body hair!

But when I looked, I see the Scots genes have taken over and I have a bit of reddish blonde baby fuzz.

Right where you never want it.

Instead of Andie McDowell runner up, I am now a candidate for Looks Most Like Hercule Poirot.

And that my friends? Is merely the beginning.

Let's talk my top concerns and currents ways of addressing them.

1. The Last Hurrah: Wack-a-doo hormones

Aforementioned benefits aside, the truth is my body is gearing up for menopause. I believe one might call this perimenopause. It includes fun things like irregular body temperature, mood swings, irregular visits from the painters (come on girls, menstruation), and breakouts on top of the emerging wrinkles.

What to do.

I began investigating all sorts of distillations from plants like Red Raspberry Leaf, which one drinks as a disgusting tea (no amount of stevia can help it) and hope it regulates you.

One also counts on this as a form of birth control. At my last gynecological annual exam, which included the dreaded question, "When shall we schedule your mammogram?" the doctor also asked, "What do you do for birth control?" Although it would have been immensely amusing to have said something clever, I just said, "I'm old, infertile, have young kids, and have had exactly five periods in the last five years...who needs birth control?"

He replied with, "In other words, you'll take what comes?"

I said, "Sure, and I love your optimism, it's why I keep coming back." I then felt a little smite-y and had to get in a dig that he was better than the optometrist, just barely, but not as good as the dentist.

2. Holy Basil batman

While investigating the aforementioned Red Raspberry leaf, I ran across Holy Basil. Yes, I stopped to check it out because it was called Holy Basil, and my brain automatically added "batman," which made me giggle which made the shop clerk look at me funny, which caused me to say, "Oh it was the batman, so funny," which made her look at me really oddly, which made me think, huh, faux mental illness can really be really liberating, no offense to those with real mental illness---a class I do not exclude myself from simply because I have thus far managed to outsmart the diagnostics.

Holy basil.

Apparently, this perfectly legal drug will---if eaten once a day with a rather large meal---carry me to an ayurvedic level of zen, mentally and physically, all while regulating my cortisol (isn't that what causes the muffin top?) and blood sugar and moods.

If you think I bypassed this little ancient miracle, you'd better rethink what you know of me.

I'm sucking down a gel cap a day like a good little girl.

3. Ahhh a nice footbath

This year I noticed a bizarre dry foot disease on my pieds. After a brief and ultimately unfruitful worry that my husband had potentially passed some dread "boy athletic shoe foot disease" to me via the bedsheets, I decided I needed a pedicure. Clearly the feet were no longer low maintenance.

Get used to this refrain at this stage in life. I think "Clearly the (insert body part) is no longer low maintenance," frequently. Yes, frequently.

But clearly, clearly I could not go see a professional with my feet looking like this.

What to do.

Here's where I am particularly impressed by my creativity and efficiency.

Bathe your feet with your kids!

The kids need baths, every night if I'm honest because I let them feed themselves, and play outdoors.

So I soak the tootsies in the bath. Every now and again, I rub them on the slightly rough plastic non-skid mat. Sometimes the kids even get into it and wash my feet. They use rough washcloths roughly. Luckily I have girls who like to be all girly. After the bath, we sit on the bed and slather our legs and feet with Body Butter. And then don socks.

My feet are now, I am happy to report, in a condition I am okay with considering going to see someone for a pedicure.

I doubt I ever will...but it was nice motivation.

4. My skin! Oh! Oh! Oh! My skin!

This is simple. I find that Proactive in the morning with Aveeno gentle wash and Oil of Olay Classic in the evening manage both the breakouts and the wrinkles. I use KISS. No, this isn't a brand, it's a philosophy: keep it simple stipper. Under the eyes? Vaseline. Or Aquaphor. Whichever is closest to hand. I've even used Lansinoh but I don't suggest that as it has a tendency to run overnight and clog your cheekbone pores. Or maybe that's just me. My pores are large enough for a trekker and band of Sherpas to camp in, so perhaps the tend toward the sharing the wealth of lotion.

Although, I think as I age, they are shrinking.

5. The Inner Workings

I simply can no longer abuse my body as I once did. It shows, and worse, I feel it. Staying out late? Oy. Staying out late drinking? Oy malloy. And I can tell the days I eat healthy, and keep in my Weight Watchers (whose guides I study as I once did Cosmo) boundaries versus the days I cave to the draw of Lupe’s and their fabulous fajitas and sangria margaritas.

I also can no longer fake it out.

When any doctor looks at my body, (s)he can tell whether I’ve been very good or very bad.

“You haven’t been flossing every day,” my dentist chastises, ‘There’s a bit of build-up in the back here, are you cutting corners?”

“Hmm, have you been on a Ben and Jerry’s binge,” my internist asks, “Your cholesterol has gone up a bit.”

Yes, this is the age in which you begin chugging calcium like it’s candy in the wild hopes you can make up for lost time in deposits, actually seriously consider the flu shot since you are in the “at risk category,” and find yourself creating a schedule of supplements and medications. Maybe. If you’re me. And I hope to God you are not. Because my friends, my health? It has gone to Hell in a handbasket.

I blame where I live, the sub-tropics, also known as the Seventh Circle of Hell, which explains the whole handbasket health bit.

The thing is…I don’t feel old. And yet, my body is changing, maturing, as it did when I was a teen. I’m having to rediscover who I am, physically, as well as emotionally. I feel myself entering a new stage of life. Young in mind, but not so young in body. Everything old---and familiar---is new again. It’s scary, exciting, and a little fun.

The other aging ladies and I sit in the school playground and discuss

• fashion---and how we are far too old to join in silly obnoxious naff Trends We Hate like Skinny Pants
• aging skin solutions
• how to eat and yet lose the last of the baby weight (even thought the baby is now school aged)
• which men are hot and which are not
• what we’d like to be when we grow up (or rather, when the kids grow up)
• the best dyes for gray
• and so forth

You know? Just like I used to when I was fifteen, before I knew everything and still needed to figure out what the heck my body was up to.

It’s fun to chat with friends, and a relief to know whew, it’s not just me.

The achy feeling in the mornings, the honesty of new limits, and the funky feeling of being in a body that does (or doesn’t do) things I mentally expect and emotionally can’t understand is not what I expected, but…I’m finding the fun in it too.

By Julie Pippert
Artful Media Group
Museum Quality Digital Art and Photography
Limited Edition Prints
Artful by Nature Fine Art and Photography Galleries

© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.